Tablet PC – A Student's Perspective

One Note, Note Taking and Powertoys

NoteTaking in Class and What it is Like

Posted by anirudhsaraf on October 25, 2007

Apart from all the ooh’s and aah’s and the surreptitious looks, what is it like to take notes in class on a tablet PC? I remember the frantic anticipation I had when I ordered my first tablet. Having only scribbled on one owned by an acquaintance, I had no idea what it would be like to take notes on one. My only experience with “handwriting” was on a PDA, and that was not really flattering.

To those debating whether to get one, let me put all your anxieties to rest. It is absolutely totally worth it :). Now that in the typical college style I have stated my conclusion, let me go ahead and support it.

Does it fell like paper when you write on it ?

Its different, but better. Its a little smoother than paper, but you get used to it pretty quickly. Besides I love writing on my tablet, so as a result I take copious notes. Earlier I would only write what I felt was absolutely necessary, but now I write down almost everything. The pen flows smoothly and the writing is instant, no lags on the modern tablet.

What about Converting Notes and Handwriting Recognition ?

You have a tablet, why do you want to convert notes to typed text? Handwriting recognition works well if are browsing the web in tablet mode but if you want to convert class notes, forget it. Apart from conversion issues ( bad handwriting !!!) you loose most of your formatting. So stick with your handwriting. I am sure you can read it 🙂.

In Theory you want this to happen



What actually happens



Thus handwriting recognition works for small neatly written text. For hurried class notes, which sometimes even I find difficult to read, I shouldn’t really expect the computer to be able to convert it, should I?

Am I paperless ?

Relatively paperless. I still have to print my homework. Unfortunately professors don’t accept email attachments :(. And don’t forget to tell them that you have a tablet and thats why your Homework is printed !!. Most professors agree to email you the handouts if you ask them, or if you are willing you can just go ahead and scan them in. One note has an inbuilt OCR, enabling you to search the text withing images. All in all, it cuts down the paper clutter by 80%, while increasing organization efficiency ten-fold.

How do I take Notes? What software do I use ?

ONE NOTE, need I say anything else? For those wondering what one note is, it is part of Microsoft Office. It is the best there is for note taking. Once you start using it, you’ll never use anything else. Apart from One Note there aren’t many other tablet specific software you’ll need ( unless you plan on drawig /art).

What about Gaming ?

The big question I had when I decided to get a tablet was “Would it mean the end of all gaming” ? Thankfully the absence of a separate graphics card (on most tablets) does not mean you can’t play an occasional game. Given you won’t have superb graphics, but FIFA 08 runs beautifully on mine. So all I need to carry is my controller, and I am all set when I need a break :). As long as you game once in a while and don’t care a lot about high definition graphics, you should be fine.

Below is a screenshot of FIFA running on my tablet.

Which Tablet would I recommend?

Having had only the HP tc4400 ( you get get them for a bargain at the HP refurb outlet) I can’t really make an accurate judgement as to which tablet you should purchase. However a few pointers

  • Most tablets are 12″. Trust me you don’t want a bigger one. Buy an external monitor instead. Any bigger and you’ll be crying about how big and heavy it is to carry around.
  • Waccom v/s FinePoint : A few of Gateway models have Finepoint technology while most others use Waccom Enabled pen. What is the difference? From my research (note I don’t have first hand experience) it appears that Finepoint doesn’t have any pressure sensitivity. For note taking this shouldn’t make much of a difference. But for those wanting to use it for drawing, art etc. this may be an issue. So for simple note taking going with the Gateway’s Finepoint tablet may be cost saving.
  • The new HPCompaq TC 1100 HP TX1000 ( Thanks Barbara for pointing out the mistake) is NOT ideal for notetaking. It uses neither Finepoint nor Waccom, but has a touchscreen and a stylus. If you want a computer with a flip screen and very occasional tablet features then go for it, otherwise stay away.

So go ahead and invest in that Tablet. You won’t be making a mistake :).

Let me know if there are any other issues you want addressed.

9 Responses to “NoteTaking in Class and What it is Like”

  1. Kaycee said

    … I have a gateway C-140X. It is a 14″ and it is wonderful. I don’t carry it around in my hand often (atleast not across campus) and carrying it in a bag is no problem. Carrying it short distances in my arms is no big deal either. It’s not that heavy. Never complained about it weight.

    Big screen, very nice. Good battery life. I have the better graphics card which is actually really good. I’ve played the Sims 2 at the highest settings with no lagging what so ever.

    Writing notes in class was a little nervous at first for me. I am a freshman this year. I was afraid I would get weird looks. Haha, I do. But mainly they are looks of curiosity and jealously. Most people have honestly never heard of Tablets!!! Those who have are jealous they don’t have one (this is mainly boys).

    I agree that I take a lot better notes on my tablet than I would ever have taken on paper. Plus I never lose them! I can copy and paste them, rearrange. One of the things I like to do now is to zoom in to 125% and write my notes like that, and then go back to 100%. It looks a lot more organized than when I write at 100%. I actually think I got that idea from this blog… I think.

    Anyway, tablets rock. I am a girl, so I hate being called a nerd or whatever, but I am. Having a tablet pc just like, proves it to everyone, but thats ok it is WAY worth it!

  2. anirudhsaraf said

    Hi Kaycee,

    I am sure you do get a lot of jealous looks.

    And the zoom suggestion was at
    However I ditched that zoom suggestion since printed notes turned out to be way too small. What I follow now is exactly opposite to what they suggested. I write at 75% so that when I print it, it is printed at 100% ( i.e. larger) and when I want to organize/glance at my notes I switch to 50%. Do you know a way to print at say 150% zoom level in one note?

    I am sure being called a nerd is a small price to pay for all the wonderful functionality the tablet affords 😉

  3. I think your blog is great. So great, that I blogged about it over on Vitamin CH. (See link above.) Can’t wait for you to do more with TreeView!

  4. Sebastien said

    Great Review 🙂

    Just a comment on note taking and handwriting recognition: I understand that the formatting will be lost and “crappy” – I was in fact just wondering about handwriting for text that will not have any formatting. It is just easier to take a quick note during a break (and idea that goes by), and later on use it on a word doc neatly “typed” (I have a newsletter, a podcast … and plenty of pdf to type 🙂

    But still more questions (that I found after digging here and there):

    – what about pen nibs ? do you use a “felt” nib ?
    – what about screen protection ? do you use one ? A Nushield or 3M vuikiti ?
    – how do you carry it ? as in do you do something special to protect its screen ?


    PS: as for printing at 150 %, normally you would go under the properties of your printers – I have a HP, and once you click on print, go under “properties”, and “effects” and there is an option for printing at XXX% of teh normal size 🙂

  5. Brooke said

    You mention that a touchscreen is not good for writing notes. I disagree. I am in civil engineering and own a fujitsu P1510D which is an ultra portable convertible (screen size is only 9.8 inches). It is a touch screen and I love it. Taking notes is fine and if I need to quickly select some thing I can use my finger instead of fiddling with the pen. If I need to access something quick I can just revive my tablet from sleep and touch my screen with my finger nail or my pencil end or some thing to manipulate it.

    I admit, touchscreens are not for everyone. Some people have issues with vectoring which is when you are writing and the pen goes everywhere. It is because another part of your hand is applying enough pressure to act like a ‘touch’ and the pen jumps there and back.

    This product appealed to me because of its portability and there are no other convertibles this size. It works extremely well for me and I’d recommend touch screens to any one as long as they understand the difference. I use onenote constantly and my tablet gives me about 6 hours of battery life.

    Please note that I am biased as I have never extensively used an active digitizer.

  6. anirudhsaraf said

    HI Sebastien,

    You could definitely record your fleeting ideas in ink, but then I would suggest just typing them up later, since they are short anyways. Handwriting recognition will convert them into typed text for you, but then there will be a few errors which you will have to correct. Rarely will you get it exactly like you want it. Its upto individual preference whether you prefer correcting mistakes, or just typing it out from scratch. In my view just keep them as Ink 🙂

    As for screen protectors, No I don’t use any. After reading online forums etc. I came to the conclusion that the tablet screen was meant to be written on. My screen takes a lot of battering, but as of now there are no permanent scratches/marks. It should last you a long time without any screen protection. But then again if you are very picky about every till smudge, you might consider getting a screen protection.

    I carry the tablet in a normal laptop bag (Tagrus). Its a little bulky but I didn’t want to spend more money on a fancy bag. Though I would love to have one of those fancy bags Lenovo has :). You don’t need anything to protect the screen specially since you carry it around like a normal laptop ( unless you have a slate)

    As for the pen nib, mine has more like a ball-point pen nib which is spring loaded I think. The pen came with a few replacement nibs. It takes a little while to get used to whichever pen comes with your tablet.As far as I have heard/read a cross waccom-enabled pen is the best, but you’ll have to get that separately. Again, I am waiting for a windfall before I splurge on any more accessories 🙂

    If you have any more question, let me know and I’ll try to do my best to answer them 🙂


    PS:- I need a way to do that from OneNote and not the printer settings. Many times I want to print from the university printers but they don’t allow me to change printer settings. So as of now, I just take my notes at 75% so that they are printed bigger 🙂

  7. Barbara said

    I think that you mean the HP TX1000, not the Compaq TC1100. That model was discontinued last year and does use an active digitizer. It was replaced by the 4400.

    I haven’t used my TC1100 for notes in classes yet. I got it used a few weeks ago and I’m working full time this semester through my university’s co-op program, but I have used it during various student group meetings. A tablet on my lap is far less isolating than a laptop screen hiding my face.

    I’d like to hear more about the process you’re using for TreeView. I want to work on some utilities for tablet PCs, so any details about your work would be very helpful.

    Kaycee, nerdiness is not exclusively male nor is it a pejorative. Why would it be a problem to be called a nerd?

  8. anirudhsaraf said

    Hi Barbara,

    Thanks for pointing out the correct version of the Product. I guess the older name kind of just stuck in my head and I didn’t double check while writing the post. Also do let us know how your writing experience is on the TC1100(or is it TX1100?), when you do use it in class. Is the passive digitizer responsive enough? Do you enjoy writing with it?

    I’ll write detailed posts about the development process if enough people are interested ( not for a while though… maybe during the winter break ) but in the meantime if you have any specific questions you would like answered let me know.


  9. Jim said


    I am looking forward to your Powertoy “TreeView” for Onenote 2007. It is a function sorely needed in Onenote!

    Good Luck with this project.


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